Frugal Tip #1: Cook Extra and Learn to Love Leftovers
About a year or so ago my friend M asked me for a list of frugal tips for busy people. I’ve thought and thought about this topic and I must say that I’ve found in nearly impossible to jot down my ideas on the matter. The fact is that frugality can take quite a lot of time.
Most of my yearly savings comes from reading the sales circulars, clipping coupons and making more than 90% of our meals at home. It also comes from planning in advance and being prepared. After all, nothing is worse than heading out on vacation only to realize you forgot your toothpaste, toothbrush or bathing suit. Failing to plan well in advance will always cost you more money. You’re bound to pay inflated prices as you run out to the nearest convenience store, drug store or mall.
I can’t provide tips for busy folks who don’t eat at home, but for those who do I have a few suggestions. First, learn to love leftover night and whenever you cook at home, cook extra. If you make a pot of chili, make it an extra large pot. If you saute chicken add a few more breasts to the pan or put another pan on the burner and make two meals at the same time.
If you’re using the oven, try to bake multiple dishes at once. This saves on time and electricity. Last night I made lasagna on the oven’s top shelf and baked, diced, red potatoes for tomorrow night’s side.
My husband and I eat leftovers at least one night a week and sometimes two or three times. I tend to cook extra on Sunday nights so we’ll have a quick and easy heat-up on Monday. We typically add the leftover chicken to pasta, serve it over rice with a few extra seasonings or turn it into tacos. If you make chili or soup, (chicken tortilla is my favorite), plan to eat it every other night. After all most of us aren’t fans of eating leftovers two to three days in a row.
The key is to have something on hand that you can heat up in a matter of minutes. It’ll take you a lot longer to order and pick up food than it will to preheat a pan and throw in last night’s dinner. If you can’t imagine eating the same thing night after night cut up the extra chicken and fold it into a chicken wrap or toss it on top of your lunchtime salad. It’s a great way to diversify your daily brown bag and will cost much less than going out to eat.
Rather than thinking of leftover night as a dreadful event begin to look forward to it. I used to hate the idea of eating the same thing twice, but once we started cooking more delicious meals I really began to enjoy it. I actually think some meals taste better the second night, particularly those with thick sauces like spaghetti.
If you’re already in the kitchen you might as well spend a few minutes preparing extra food. By having tomorrow night’s dinner at your fingertips you won’t find yourself asking what’s for dinner, you won’t need to run out at the last minute for additional ingredients, and you won’t be tempted to drive to a restaurant or pick up fast food. By planning ahead and cooking extra you’ll save yourself time and money. I save at least 45 to 60 minutes a week by doubling meal preparation and planning for leftovers.